Monday, January 18, 2010


As I was talking with a colleague yesterday about literature circles, he mentioned that a small-group discussion can actually be a form of revision, not of students’ writing but of their thinking – and I found it an intriguing notion. He said when students engage in conversation about a book, they can actually take part in a process very similar to amending and modifying a piece of writing. Assuming they are open to new ways of thinking about the book, their thoughts can alter in intricate and subtle ways as the discussion proceeds. You might say they come to the discussion with a ‘first draft” of interpretations, but by the end of the discussion they are closer, perhaps, to a second and maybe more polished way of looking at the book. I spend a lot of time revising my own writing (it’s actually the most cheerful part of the process for me) and I require my students to do the same, but I hadn’t considered the notion of “revising” our thoughts about a book. If dusting off, rearranging, reshuffling, fiddling with, and polishing a piece of writing seems to get me closer to creating something like a modest work of art, perhaps participating in a book discussion can do the same for my students and me. Perhaps, when the last discussion is finished, we can each be proud that we have created a revised, refined, even somewhat sophisticated, maybe even “beautiful” interpretation.

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